Stanislaus River water temperatures are expected to be too warm this fall for the survival of the Chinook salmon that are protected the federal Endangered Species Act.
The federal government demanded California lower the water temperature for the fish fall run.
The Department of Water Resources didn’t have sufficient water left at the drought-ravaged New Melones Reservoir to protect the fish.
So the state told South San Joaquin Irrigation District and Oakdale Irrigation District they were going to outright take a combined 22,000 acre feet from the two agencies to satisfy the federal order to protect the fish. and not pay for it
The SSJID made it clear if that happened they would go to court seeking civil damages and perhaps even criminal court to pursue charges of unlawful taking of property — namely the 11,000 acre feet of water they’d take from the SSJID without paying for it.
But instead of setting the stage for lengthy and costly litigation for the SSJID, OID, and Department of Water Resources representatives came up with a way to defuse the situation and put the 22,000 acre feet of water to dual use.
On Tuesday, the SSJID board is meeting behind closed doors to consider the terms of a deal that will sell their half of the 22,000 acre feet of water to the San Luis and Delta Mendota Water Authority. The OID board will meet to consider the same thing.
What will happen is when the water is released this fall it will flow down the Stanislaus River to lower the water temperature for the critical fall Chinook salmon run. Once it enters the San Joaquin River it will become the property of the San Luis and Delta Mendota Water Authority and will be diverted near Tracy so it can ultimately flow into the San Luis Resevior.
“They (the state) were going to take the water anyway and not pay for it,” SSJID General Manager Jeff Shields noted.
Shields said the money the district receives will go toward helping district farmers pump groundwater to replace what is lost in the transfer.
At the same time, farmers served by San Luis-Mendota will have water to help keep orchards alive and possibly produce crops.